Academy Hill School provides an intellectual, principled, creative, and enriching foundation for gifted and high-potential students to become the next visionaries, innovators, and leaders by:
Identifying and cultivating the talents in each student through creative, challenging, and differentiated programs Building character, citizenship, and confidence in students Encouraging and enabling creative and critical thought and actions Providing students with the skills to succeed in future academic and professional environments
The History of Academy Hill School
The Academy Hill Center (known originally as The Ames Hill Center for Gifted Children, Inc.) began in 1979. The Center was founded by a group of parents and professionals dedicated to providing enrichment classes for intellectually gifted children in the greater Springfield, Massachusetts area. At that time, parents were driving children to Worcester, MA for similar programs. Saturday and summer classes were held from 1979 - 1981 at the MacDuffie School for Girls in Springfield. In December of 1981, Wilbraham and Monson Academy invited The Center to merge with them and move to the Academy's campus in Wilbraham. A year later, The Center was renamed The Academy Hill Center for Gifted Children. Mary Crist was named Executive Director of the Center.
Well-known for its popular Saturday and summer classes, Academy Hill Center was often encouraged to open a day school for the gifted. This step was taken in September, 1986. The opening day enrollment of 51 grew to 55 by the end of the year. Classes were held in two buildings on the Wilbraham and Monson Academy campus. Members of our first Kindergarten class graduated from the school in June, 1993.
Academy Hill Center for Gifted Children was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in July 1988. The Academy Hill School is a division of The Academy Hill Center for Gifted Children. Mary Crist became the first Head of School. Its classes continued to meet on the Wilbraham and Monson Academy campus.
In 1993, the Board of Directors of Academy Hill School voted to return to the original site on the fourteen acre MacDuffie School campus in Springfield. The school was able to house all students in one building and to utilize the cultural and educational resources of the Greater Springfield area. Also in 1993, Judith Williams became the second Head of School.
In the fall of 1998, a search was begun for a new Head of School. Carolyn Price joined the school in the spring of 1999 as the third Head of Academy Hill School.
After several years on the MacDuffie campus, the Board determined that the school's long-term goals could be better met by purchasing a larger building, which was done in the year 2000. The 2000-2001 school year opened in our new facility, located on Liberty Street in Springfield. In 2003 the Board of Directors approved the extension of grade levels to include a middle school component. Seventh grade was added in September of 2004, followed by the opening of the eighth grade in 2005. In the fall of 2013, Robert Orlando was named the fifth Head of School. In recent years, our enrollment has been around 100 students in Kindergarten through grade eight.
An independent non-profit corporation, the Academy Hill School continues to be committed to providing excellence in educational services.
Robert Orlando, Head of School Joel Pitchon, Trustee Shoeb Konorwalla, Parent Marjorie Weeks, Director of Institutional Advancement Melissa Earls, Parent Christopher Freda, Parent Barbara Dimauro, Parent MaryGrace Stewart, Teacher
The Board of Trustees initiated a strategic planning committee in September of 2013. Given the changes the in school leadership both at the administrative and board level, it was deemed an appropriate time to execute a new strategic plan. A parent survey was distributed in the Fall of 2013 to gather information on the strengths and weaknesses of our school program. The committee then completed a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis based on the survey information and current trends. This analysis was shared with the Board of Trustees and faculty for their input and feedback. Based on emerging themes, the strategic planning committee broke into subcommittees to start to formulate a plan in four priority areas: Curriculum and Program Quality, Educator Quality, Facilities and Infrastructure, and Financial Sustainability. Each subcommittee drafted key initiatives that were vetted both at the committee and board level throughout the year. The final plan was approved at a Board of Trustees meeting in September of 2014.
Dear Academy Hill community,
We are proud to share with you the new Strategic Plan. This plan will set a meaningful and purposeful direction for our school for the next three years.
As part of our work, we evaluated our school mission and reinvented what it means to participate in an Academy Hill education. Although the central tenets of our mission remain the same, our revision articulates more deeply the purpose of our work. This process reaffirmed that Academy Hill will always provide a rigorous and nurturing environment for bright and gifted students.
Although we are a strong organization, it is imperative that we are constantly responding to the always-changing landscape of our global society It is crucial that our students develop critical thinking skills, flexible thought, and creative problem solving and not just breadth of information. This plan aims to build upon the obvious strengths of our program to become an even more robust learning community.
We are excited about the future of Academy Hill. Although this plan is ambitious, we know that our supportive families, alumni, faculty, and our students are committed and ready for the challenge. Together, we will continue to demonstrate the power of an Academy Hill education.
Robert Orlando Maria Gulluni
Strategic Priority One: Become experts in the creative and individualized education of bright students.
Academy Hill School will establish its presence as a center for gifted and talented elementary and middle school education in Western Massachusetts. AHS will recruit and retain high quality, knowledgeable, and committed educators for all positions, and provide them with opportunities for professional growth to enhance the curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular offerings for our students. AHS will seek partnerships with local agencies and institutions for the mutual benefit of these entities and our own community.
1. Develop a three-tier approach to professional development to serve three populations: a) individuals, b) departments or teams, c) whole community.
2. Define an annual focus point for professional development and prioritize trainings, sessions, classes or conferences that address the focus area.
3. Encourage faculty to pursue opportunities to publish works or articles, facilitate training or professional development, or teach classes intended to reach communities beyond our own school.
4. Create a recruitment and retention plan to attract and retain high quality educators for any available position.
Strategic Priority Two:Prepare each child for success in his or her chosen aspirations
Vision: The school will provide enriched curriculum and instruction that creates a climate focused on student learning and that is rigorous and challenging.
The curriculum will support the development of students’ character including integrity, respect and responsibility that is systemically infused with personal, school, community, and global awareness.
The curriculum and instruction addresses learning pace and development of students through differentiation by readiness, interest, and learning style. In addition, the curriculum supports and encourages creative and critical thinking. It addresses best practices in gifted education and surpasses CT, MA, and national standards. Through this rich learning environment we prepare students for top quality high schools and universities.
A. Curriculum with Coherence Pre-K – 8
Key Initiatives In order to build a more complete and sequential curriculum dedicated to the academic development of bright children that is vertically aligned, we will establish a curriculum committee of teachers and administration who will build an academically rigorous and differentiated coherent curriculum with logical scope and sequence for grades Pre-K – 8 that will exceed state public school standards and will prepare students for entry into top high schools. To ensure a sound researched base, congruence with best practices in gifted education, and adequate attention to the specific learning needs of our students, the curriculum will include: Differentiation of instruction by readiness, interest, learning style, pace, development, and social and emotional issues. Overarching universal themes Principles of the discipline Guiding/essential questions Depth and complexity Higher order thinking skills Creative and critical thinking Independent research and product creation Students working in the manner of professionals National Association for Gifted Children Programming Standards For continuous improvement and to ensure current best practices in education especially gifted education, we will establish an ongoing process by which we will annually assess and develop the curriculum.
B. Robust Student Life Opportunities
Key Initiatives In order to support the development of students’ interests, which research shows are the most likely predictor of later career choices and personal satisfaction, we will provide opportunities for students to pursue their interests through co-curricular activities to include both: One or more blocks of time in the regular school week for activities, clubs, and competitions like MathCounts, National Jr. Honor Society, school newspaper, school yearbook, and a Middle School Athletics program as facilities permit. Continue to build our robust enrichment programs with classes after school and during the summer, and potentially expand enrichment programs to school vacations, and Saturdays.
C. Focus on Social Development
To encourage the expansion of our students’ sphere of social connectivity and competence, we will continue to open enrichment classes to the public and offer other outreach activities. To support students’ sense of self-worth and ability to interact comfortably with others, we will create advisory opportunities for all students such that each student has a specific adult advocate in the school who knows him or her well, offers emotional support, and helps him or her achieve academic and personal goals. To build a sense of social responsibility, we will infuse a school-wide program of character/respect/citizenship into all grades, including opportunities for broader community awareness and community service in places and for organizations outside of the school. While it is recommended that this take place in all grades, a community service project will be required of Middle School Students.
Assist families in the process of applying to high schools, including building students’ standardized testing skills
Strategic Priority Three: Ensure that Academy Hill School has the key technologies and infrastructure considered pivotal for the students to succeed in future academic and professional endeavors. Ensure that key initiatives will meet current sustainability criteria and guidelines.
The school will provide a sustainable infrastructure, facility, and resources required to build the academic foundation for the enduring success of students and the school.
A. Facility Expansion
Develop a conceptual master plan with the primary goal of expanding the existing facilities in order to address limitations that have been currently assessed in key areas of student development. These include auditorium, instructional space, gymnasium, and cafeteria. This will be achieved either through expansion of the building infrastructure by constructing an addition to the building and/or by renovating the existing facilities. This will allow us to: have adequate performance space for performing arts to provide students the opportunity to engage in creative endeavor have an appropriate physical education facility to support the development, character and confidence of our students have instructional spaces that will support a robust student population and accommodate the current and anticipated needs of the school
B. Science Laboratory
Repurpose the former kitchen area to build a modern science laboratory to ensure that students have the necessary resources to advance their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skill set.
C. Safety Infrastructure
Upgrade infrastructure to provide a safe and secure learning environment for students. The safety infrastructure includes but is not limited to the building, communication facilities, structural safety, and fire safety.
D. Technology Infrastructure
Upgrade the technology resources and instructional media to enhance learning opportunities that optimally leverage the most effective and efficient means available to maximize student academic performance.
Strategic Priority Four:Ensure that Academy Hill has the financial resources available to support and sustain the School’s program of excellence.
Academy Hill will maintain short and long term financial strength and stability by developing and communicating a fiscally responsible and sustainable financial plan that advances the school’s mission. The School will maintain adequate reserves to meet unexpected demands.
1. Develop a flexible plan to ensure that tuition and non-tuition revenues necessary to support the school’s mission, fund programs, cover costs and maintain adequate reserves will be available, given a range of possible enrollment levels.
2. Create and evaluate a pro forma financial plan, based on a range of revenue and cost projections and scenarios, in order to ensure the School is fiscally consistent with its operating objectives and needs.
3. Enhance financial management tools by developing a 3 to 5 year forecasting model that contemplates a variety of interdependent enrollment, tuition, revenue and expense scenarios.
4. Evaluate effectiveness of Annual Fund and make recommendations for future growth.
5. Develop a plan for continuing to grow the School’s endowment.